Scary Godmother, Runamuck Productions, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Chicagoan Jill Thompson and Runamuck artistic director Heath Corson have adapted the first story in Thompson’s picture-book series into a swift, satisfying play debunking the scariness of things that go bump in the night. Little Hannah (a convincing Sara Wehrheim) is trick-or-treating with the big kids for the first time, escorted by her cousin Jimmy (Philip Winston). But Jimmy–appropriately costumed as the devil–thinks she slows them down and wants to scare her into returning home. He sends Hannah into the spooky house on the corner while he and the other kids wait outside nervously.
There are indeed ghouls inside–but they’re a friendly bunch with more personality quirks than adults might expect: a pretentious, greedy werewolf (Keith Ellis) in sheep’s pajamas, a skeleton (Thomas Colby) who comes out of the closet very subtly, a socially dense vampire (Clint P. McCreery) who tells bad jokes, a matter-of-fact monster (Patrick Zielinski) who hides under beds and collects a lot of lost socks, and Hannah’s own scary godmother (Renee Prince), a perky witch whose mission is to reassure Hannah when she’s frightened.
The only child in the audience on opening night, a four-year-old, was enthralled–but she seems a brave exception. Some scenes might be too intense for the very young, though the show is probably perfect for the six-and-up set. And except for some sagging party scenes toward the end, it’s clever enough to amuse accompanying adults.